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Even an Employee’s Child Suffered the Lewdness of This Bad Boss

At any workplace, the boss sets the tone. Jim McKinney was no exception: His Dallas-based medical company was rife with sex talk and catcalling — much of it from himself.

Even by his own crass standard, however, Mr. McKinney hit a new low on Bring Your Child To Work Day. Upon meeting an employee’s teenage daughter, according to a deposition, he sized up the child and said, in front of his team: “Wow — for being 15, your knockers are very big.”

The employee, Bonnie Shaw, was mortified and told Mr. McKinney he was out of line; he just laughed. Ms. Shaw brought her concerns to Human Resources and was fired shortly afterward.

Jim McKinney is our new “Bad Boss of the Month.”

After hearing from Ms. Shaw and others, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed suit against EmCare, the parent company of Mr. McKinney’s AnesthesiaCare division. At trial a jury awarded $499,000 to the aggrieved former employees; EmCare is fighting the verdict.

The remark about Ms. Shaw’s daughter was far from Mr. McKinney’s only offense. “Every time” her boss was around, Ms. Shaw testified, he had something sexually suggestive to say. Sometimes he’d ask her to lower her neckline to show more cleavage; sometimes he’d ask her to lift up her skirt so he could see her “behind.”

Ms. Shaw said she had complained before to HR, but that nothing had happened. After the incident with her child, which had left her visibly upset and shaking, she complained again. So did co-worker Luke Trahan, who had witnessed Mr. McKinney’s misconduct. Within weeks, both were fired without any indication of poor performance on the job.

Also fired after complaining was Mr. McKinney’s administrative assistant, Gloria Stokes, who had raised concerns about the sexual comments that happened “every time Mr. McKinney was in the office — multiple times a day.”

During her job interview, Ms. Stokes said, Mr. McKinney told her that he hoped she wasn’t the kind of person who would run to HR “every five minutes.” Once hired, she found out why: Mr. McKinney often made lecherous comments, such as saying Ms. Stokes was “busting out” of her shirt. When getting a cold soda, he would tell Ms. Stokes he was “hot and horny.”

Mr. McKinney also talked dirty with men in the office, often in Ms. Stokes’ presence. With one male colleague, she said, “p*nis size came up frequently,” as did wife-swapping braggadocio. In court, Mr. McKinney struggled to explain a series of e-mails that evidently included a photo of a p*nis tattoo: Possibly the words “deep or shallow” referred to an EmCare account, he testified. Asked what “big boys welcome” meant, he had no suggestions.

In court, the EEOC excoriated Mr. McKinney for being more like a “teenage boy going through puberty than a high-level executive in charge of an entire department.” EmCare lawyers defended him as a “character” and a “joker” but not a harasser or retaliator.

Eventually, however, Mr. McKinney resigned from EmCare after a business dinner at which he got drunk, accosted a female employee as “a bitch and a whore,” and (depending on the account) yanked her ponytail. Mr. McKinney claimed he was so inebriated he had no memory of the incident; he was drowning his sorrows after learning that EmCare wanted to name a physician to his position.

For its part, EmCare argued that the dinner was “the first, last, and only time Mr. McKinney crossed over [a] line.” The jury disagreed: It found that Ms. Stokes had been sexually harassed; that Mr. Trahan and Ms. Shaw — the mother whose child Mr. McKinney humiliated — had faced unlawful retaliation; and that EmCare should pay the three former employees a half-million dollars in combined damages.

» EEOC Complaint
» Partial trial transcript: Mr. McKinney’s testimony on “p*nis related” e-mails


The Employment Law Group® law firm was not involved in EEOC v. EmCare, Inc.. We select "Bad Boss" cases to illustrate the continuing relevance of employee protection laws for our newsletter's audience, which includes attorneys and former TELG clients.

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